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Study underscores importance of a father's involvement during pregnancy

June 21, 2010 | 12:22 pm

It seems like every other day healthcare professionals are coming up with new pregnancy wellness tips -- ones generally aimed at expectant mothers. But future dads have roles to play -- and a study by researchers at the University of Southern Florida shows just how important the man's role can be during this critical time.

The findings, published in the Journal of Community Health, reported that involvement of future fathers during a woman’s pregnancy was linked to a reduced risk of death during the first year of the child’s life.

The researchers examined birth records of more than 1.39 million live births in Florida from 1998 to 2005. Paternal involvement during pregnancy was defined by the presence of the father’s name on the infant’s birth certificate. Though this is far from a perfect measure of a father's involvement in the pregnancy, the methodology has worked fairly well in prior studies, said lead author Amina Alio, a research assistant professor of community and family health at the USF College of Public Health.

The study’s findings, encapsulated:
  • Regardless of the mother's race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status, death during the first year of life was nearly four times more likely for infants who lacked paternal prenatal influence.
  • The risk of infant mortality for babies born to black mothers who lacked paternal involvement during their pregnancies was seven times higher than for babies born to Latino and white women in the same paternal situation.

-- Jessie Schiewe

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Comments (4)

Have there been a case of a pregnancy in which a father was not involved?

"Far from perfect measure," indeed. The presence of the father's name on the birth certificate equals prenatal paternal involvement? That just seems silly to me. What it indicates is whether the mother knows the father's name and wants others to know. That could be correlated with all kinds of other non-paternal things -- like how much common sense and self-esteem the mother has (or how careful she is about choosing men), for example -- which might have an influence on the child's survival.

I can hear my freshman statistics and research professor loud and clear in my head right now -

-correlation does not equal causation!

-correlation does not equal causation!

-correlation does not equal causation!

-correlation does not equal causation!

From my understanding, many women put the father's name on the birth certificate regardless of whether the father is involved. Many times when women don't do this, it because they don't know who the father is! This could be indicative of much larger issues - such as reckless sexual behavior, prostitution, drug-addiction, mental illness, etc. Perhaps it is these other issues that the researchers were measuring?

Clearly I need to read the report to know the full story, but it seems like an interesting finding - with a conclusion that is as riddled with holes as yesterday lunch's swiss cheese.

It is hard for a father to get his name on the birth certificate, so if you are not a father it is possible that you have no clue how hard it can be to be involved in your child's life, especially if the mother is not satisfied with your financial status. In California for example a father cannot even enforce "Father's Rights".


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